Turn off DEP to prevent program crashes

By | March 11, 2011
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This tip works in Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

If you have a program you use and the program will not run or keeps crashing because Windows DEP (Data Execution Protection) keeps closing the program, we’re going to show you how you can prevent DEP from closing it so you can continue to use the program.

But before we show you how to do that, you need to know why DEP is important and why you shouldn’t turn it off globally (for all programs).

Hackers and virus writers are always looking to exploit unpatched Windows vulnerabilities that allow them to put data on a computer and then trick the computer into executing that data as if it were normal program code. It’s one way to take control of, compromise, or “infect” a computer

Data Execution Prevention protects the operating system by trapping malicious attempts to execute data as if it were program code. It’s been proven since Windows XP to be a very way to block malicious code from executing. But, like all things, there are two side to that coin – some legitimate programs execute data as code, especially older ones and some newer ones which were created before DEP became part of Windows (with the release of Windows XP) and which were simply updated to work with Windows XP and newer versions of Windows.

But… if you have a program you trust that also happens to cause DEP errors, you can add it to the list of exceptions and effectively turn DEP off for that program. Assuming your computer is protected with good antivirus and good antispyware (and you keep them updated) you shouldn’t be increasing your risk of being “attacked” by malicious code simply because you turned DEP off for a particular program or two.

In Windows Vista or Windows 7 you can access the DEP dialog by right-clicking “Computer” in the start menu (or on the desktop) and choosing “Properties”. In the dialog that appears, click the Advanced tab. Under Performance, click “Settings”.

Cloudeight InfoAve

Now click the Data Execution Prevention tab.

Cloudeight InfoAve

In the image above you can see that there are two ways to turn off DEP. The first way is to “Turn on DEP for essential Windows Programs and services only” and the second is “Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select.” Rather than turning off DEP for everything except essential Windows programs and services, a better (and safer) way to fix DEP errors with programs is to add those program (or program) to the exception list.

It’s easy to do. Click on the Add… button. Now, browse to the program’s executable (exe) file. If you have more than one program causing DEP errors and which is being shut down by DEP add it to the list also. But remember – only add programs to the exception list that you know are safe and that you trust. And make sure you have good antivirus and antispyware programs running on your computer and you keep them updated.

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